Arriving at Liz´s home in Mission Bay, ten minutes from down town Auckland, with our own private room (or Liz´s room), heating, hot shower and a fluffy cat made our start in Auckland awesome. When Liz decided to be our private guide for the next three days it became even better. She drove us all over town, up and down the volcanoes surrounding the city, showed us the big city night life and even entertained us with live Mariachi music. Hats, boots and everything. We had tacos. And margaritas. She also made us breakfast with all kinds of fruits from their garden. Including kiwi. The fruit. Not the bird. We now feel well rested, clean and prepared for a new country.
Our original plan on the North island didn´t turn out the way we had planned. We took the ferry from Picton to Wellington. A stunning trip and in a distance we saw a whale blowing water into the air. The sun was shining and we sat on deck most of the trip. Once arriving in Wellington we drove around to find the campervan site that we had booked the day before. Big mistake. Huge. The site turned out to be a car park. In the middle of the city. Right by the biggest intersection in Wellington. On the bright side we had walking distance to the city center…
We spent two days exploring bars, restaurants and museums before heading to Tongariro National Park (Mordor) to do the best hiking route in New Zealand, the Tongariro Crossing. An eight-hour hike up and in between volcano’s, turquoise mountain lakes and magnificent views that is suppose to blow you away. And it would have. That same evening the rain came and the wind was blowing 90 km/hour. So the hike was cancelled. Go figure. While the rain was pouring down we went for a drive. Three hours later we entered the city of mud pools and volcanic activity. The city of Rotorua. After some free hot spring spa bath we visited the Volcanic Valley where smoke was coming up from underneath our feet and water was boiling in all directions. The only thing missing was a dragon peeking out of an egg smelling pool.
Not knowing what to do, we went west to Whareppapa South for some limestone climbing and to check out the very well equipped climbing store in the middle of nowhere, Bryce´s Climbing Café. We camped at the local schoolyard and climbed pockets until our fingers bled. And the rain came yet again. So we went caving. In wetsuits. And helmets. And tubes so we wouldn´t drown. Crawling on our hands and knees, exploring Waitomo cave, checking out glowworms and jumping waterfalls. It was cool. So cool that we needed hot soup and a bagel. Aaaaahahahahahaha!
After rain and dark caves comes white beaches and sun at the rad surfers paradise, Raglan. And rad it became when some professional surfer went big wave surfing for some rad movie. Rad.
From the west coast to the east we ended up at Coromandel Peninsula for some sun, more beaches and lazy days. No swimming though because: 1. The water was freezing. 2. You´d get killed by the currents. Still it was amazing and beautiful. After one of the coldest nights in New Zealand, we were ready to swap the campervan for a real bed and heating. We followed the winding roads by the sea to our final destination, Auckland.
Through Homers tunnel, over the mountains and back to civilization in a very cold and frosty (no sandflies) Queenstown. We celebrated with a “crazy” night out. Starting with a huge burger at 6 pm, then a couple of beers, a drink and finishing of with an ice cream. All in. In bed at 11 pm. Madness.
Queenstown is the city where people pay a lot of money to do stupid things. Like the Nevis King Swing. And so did we. Twice.
08.00- Pick up to destination
08.45- Harness on
09.00- Sit down in harness… scared as hell!
09.01- Fall 70 meters and then swing 200 meters.
09.05 - Guy releasing swing: “Wanna do it again?” Us: “Yes.”
09.15- Same procedure. But backwards.
09.17- ……….………..…..iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaa! AAAAAHAAHAHAHAHA!
09.30- Pick up expensive pictures, dvd and a “free” truckers cap with “Worlds Highest Nevis Swing” printed all over it.
With big smiles we left Queenstown for Glacier country.
Driving from the east side of the mountains to the west, feels like entering a new climate zone. This side has rainforests but also glaciers. It´s warmer and more humid, which means “bye bye double sleeping bags” and “hello again flesh eating sandflies”.
And then there is the ocean. Oh, how we´ve missed you Ocean!
We stopped at Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers to have a look at old ice. It was cool. So cool that we needed coffee. And wifi. While sipping on our lattes (yes Cc, they do have lattes here. No beagles though) we had a look at the tide and sunset schedule at Pancake Rocks (Punakaiki), realized that time was short, jumped in our camper and drove there as fast as we could (within the speed limits of course…). We arrived just before the sun set and the waves were rolling in… Romantic.
Then we had tacos.
Right now we´re in Wellington and heading north.
We left The Hills with sore bodies and harsh memories of Springfield and started driving down south. The scenic route turned out to be a road through flat farm land. And not so scenic. What the hell! We wanted dramatic mountains, lakes and water falls!
One of the coolest things about this country is how the landscape changes. Rapidly. One minute you´re driving in flat “nothing-to-see”-land and the next you see beautiful green hills, thousands of sheep, turquoise, cold lakes and people swimming in these very cold lakes.
Something not so cool is the sandflies. The guide book writes about mosquitos and that you should use repellent. We have. Obviously sandflies don’t belong in the same category as mosquitos. It looks like we have some kind of disease. Sexy.
Most of the drive turned out to be lovely though. We stopped in Lake Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown. So far no bungy jumping. We’ve promised ourselves to do the king swing on our way back to Wanaka. 70 meters of free falling and 200 meters of stomach turning king swing. It´s going to be rad… dude!
Once arriving in Te Anau and finding the ugly but free campsite, we decided to get up early the next day and move on to Milford Sound. The road to this place is amazing. Dramatic mountains, lakes and water falls. Everywhere. And you get to drive through Homers tunnel (yes, this land seems to be obsessed with our yellow dysfunctional little family).
We left the beautiful Banks Peninsula with some handy earthquake survival tips and drove towards Christchurch which still suffers from the earthquake damages in 2011. It took us 45 minutes to find the tourist information just to find out that it was closed. And so was everything else. 10 minutes later we headed for the climbing mecca of Castle Hill. We spent the first night in the dark at the "free" camp site of Craigieburn with the mosquitos. The next morning we tried to make some coffee in the wind at the Castle Hill car park. We ended up with an empty gas can and not so hot coffee... Excellent start. Met up with a very excited climber who ran around showing us all the classic problems. And then we climbed. Not so many classic problems. We also listened to a group of people singing rain/sun/earth/thank you God?-worship songs... Any who... It was weird. And along came the rain. They left. Bastards!
Rain and a half tank of gas made us turn the wheels towards the "city" of Springfield. Had an awesome piece of chocolate and caramel cake before we checked in at the Springfield Hotel with the sign "Campervans welcome!". Nice! The manager told us that we could park anywhere within the car park. With the other trucks. Cozy. 30 minutes later we witnessed our first bar fight at the local pub while we had a beer and tried to charge our iPhones. Safe sleep.
Woke up. Rain. Lazy day at Flock Hill Lodge. Went to the Devils Punchbowl. In the rain.
Next stop Lake Tekapo and Wanaka. Stay tuned!
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